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Jobs and work experience hard to find for high school students during pandemic

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WATCH ABOVE: Many teenagers are struggling to find a summer job or experience to help guide a career choice. As Kendra Slugoski explains in Family Matters, the pandemic has forced teens to stay home and out of the workforce – May 4, 2021

Emma Matiejewski has been trying to get a job. That hasn’t been easy for the 18-year-old in Edmonton, Alta.

“So far I’ve only gotten two interviews,” said Matiejewski, “and the two interviews I have gotten, no luck.

“With the pandemic, people aren’t really hiring.”

Read more: Alberta’s current COVID-19 status worse than every province and state: Former top doctor

Matiejewski said she applied to entry-level jobs in retail and restaurants, but business owners have been forced to cut staff and their hours to accommodate provincial health restrictions.

Only outdoor dining, delivery and curbside pickup are allowed in Alberta right now.

Read more: Alberta restaurants close to in-person dining as COVID-19 restrictions take effect

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With the COVID-19 caseload outpacing every other part of the country, Premier Jason Kenney said more restrictions are likely to be delivered soon.

Read more: Kenney says new COVID-19 restrictions likely coming to Alberta on Tuesday as health crisis worsens

Matiejewski said the jobs she didn’t get were filled by people with more experience, but she stressed it’s difficult to gain any experience when high school students have been pushed online and told to stay home.

“It’s kind of hard with the pandemic because you can’t really go out and do anything, you have to sit at home if you’re not working. It’s just hard.”

Graduating students trying to gain work experience to determine their career path have also been shut out of work places.

Katie Sattler, a Grade 12 student in Calgary, Alta., said she did an online mentorship program but being able to job shadow for real-life experience was not possible this year.

“Being able to meet people and see what they do has been kind of non-existent because of the pandemic.”

Sattler and a group of friends found a solution.

Last year, they pitched a networking website to Technovation, a competition that addresses real-world problems in their community.

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“What do you want to do after high school?” they asked. It’s a question the team said many students ask themselves and rarely feel confident in their answer.

The students came up with Joy to Job. The website connects students with professionals in a range of fields and allows them to have candid conversations during hosted webinars.

Read more: Finding a job during a pandemic is not easy, but still possible

The group placed first in Alberta for Joy to Job and among the Top 14 in the international competition.

Sattler, Bridget Ferguson and Grace Attalla said after hearing from fellow students and parents, they decided to continue with Joy to Job and feel it’s even more helpful during the pandemic.

“Even though you’re not at the job or the field, I think you get an honest reflection of what their career is like,” said Attalla.

Attalla and Sattler said reading a blurb about a career on a website isn’t enough. Many students want to know the “day-to-day life” of a specific job.

“You really get to hear, I think, the stories of the professionals,” said Attalla.

“We’ve had directors of big companies say like, ‘I failed a course in university and that’s OK.’ Stuff like that, that you really don’t hear going online or in different professional settings.”

“A big theme has been like, it’s OK to fail and it’s OK to kind of have a plan and that gets messed up,” reiterated Sattler, “and of course with the pandemic, that’s sort of everybody’s plans have been tossed away.”

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Joy to Job has covered a wide range of careers in fine arts to engineering to business.

The last webinar focused on the sciences. The Joy to Job team was able to sign up a chemist, neuroscientist and an ecologist.

The group wants to expand its reach to students and professionals in other parts of the province and have teachers share Joy to Job with their students.

The next webinar is scheduled on May 18, 2021. The focus is on computers and technology. Students can register at joytojob.com or sign up on an email list for future webinar dates.

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Joy to Job webinars connect high school students with professionals. Supplied

Attalla, who plans to head to university for engineering science, said she was surprised to get the most out of the fine arts webinar.

“I’m definitely not going into fine arts,” said Attalla.

“One of the things that really stuck out to me in that webinar was you need to advocate for yourself, you need to ask the question because you’ll never know what the answer will be and maybe you’ll have a great opportunity.”

Matiejewski isn’t sure of her career path yet. She wants to save up for college and said getting a job is the first step to independence so she can stop relying on her parents.

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“I’m just really hoping to get anything.”

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